If you send money abroad often or even once in a while, then you know about the expensive bank money transfer fees and the highly skewed exchange rates that often include hidden fees.
Fintech company Wise, formerly TransferWise, presents an inexpensive option when moving money across countries. Through Wise money transfer, you have an alternative that’s 6 times cheaper than your bank due to the mid-market exchange rate that Wise uses and a small upfront charge.
In this Wise review, I cover how the money transfer service works, its fees, pros and cons, and how it compares to its competition, including PayPal (Xoom), Western Union, MoneyGram, Revolut, WorldRemit, Remitly, and others.
Wise Canada Summary
Wise Canada (formerly TransferWise) Money Transfer
Ease of Use
The Wise money transfer is a cheap alternative to fund transfer services like Western Union, MoneyGram, Remitly and WorldRemit. It allows you to transfer funds at mid-market exchange rates to nearly anywhere in the world for a low fee. The Wise service aims to make transferring funds cheap for the people, so it charges the real exchange rate rather than marking it up and slapping hidden charges, the way banks do. With sending fees starting from 0.43% and a strategy that keeps currencies local, Wise remains one of the cheapest ways to transfer funds since its launch in 2011.
- Mid-market exchange rate
- Convenient and cheap transfer rates
- Transparent fees
- No monthly fees
- No hidden fees
- Prices are upfront
- Pay only for what you use
- Low sending and converting fees
- Excellent customer support
- Limits on transfer amounts
- Delayed transfers
- Limited weekend support
- Deactivates accounts without warning
- No cash pickup option
How Wise (TransferWise) Works
Wise helps you to send and receive money internationally (to over 70 countries) at a low cost.
Typically, when you send money abroad through banks, they will mark up the interbank rate (or mid-market rate) and charge additional hidden fees, thus, increasing the total cost.
If you use Wise, you’ll be charged the mid-market rate when exchanging currencies, plus a small upfront fee. You can confirm the mid-market rate online using Google, Yahoo, or Xe.com.
The mid-market rate is as close to a competitive rate as you can get at any given time and is what the banks use when conducting transactions with each other.
The bottom line is that with the transparent fee charged by Wise and the real exchange rate conversion (which can also be guaranteed for some time), you’re able to get significant savings.
Wise can afford to make things cheaper because of its innovative approach to keeping currencies local, so they do not have to cross the border.
To use Wise, follow these steps:
- Create an account and initiate your transfer.
- Enter your basic details and the information about your recipient and their banking details. Recipients do not need to have a Wise account and can be a business or charity.
- Verify your identity by uploading the required ID and proof of address. This process can take up to 2 days, so complete this step before sending funds.
- Fund your transfer using various methods, including bank transfer, debit card, credit card, online bill transfer, SWIFT, wire transfer, SOFORT (Europe), etc.
When sending money from Canada, it takes 1-3 working days for your funds to reach Wise, depending on your payment method. Some transfer limits to be aware of are:
- Direct debit: Up to 9,500 CAD per day and 30,000 CAD weekly
- Debit or credit card: Up to 3,000 CAD per transfer
- Online bill payment and wire transfer: Up to 1.5 million CAD
- Interac e-Transfer: Up to 25,000 CAD (your bank may have a lower limit than this)
Banks that support automatic debit from your account to Wise in Canada include:
Get a Wise Account (send your first $800 free).
Wise (TransferWise) Fees
The fees you pay when sending money through Wise is dependent on the following:
The amount you are sending: A percentage is charged on the amount, and it varies from currency to currency (usually 1% or less).
How you pay for your transfer: Direct debits cost less than when you pay with a credit card. The means of payment may limit the maximum amount you can send per transaction.
Exchange rate: The rate you receive is the mid-market rate with no markup or hidden fees (same as the rate you see on Google). Depending on the currency, the rate may also be guaranteed for up to 48 hours.
As an example of fees: supposing I want to send $1,000 CAD to a friend in Australia (the recipient’s currency is AUD), the following fees apply using a direct debit (the cheapest option for CAD transfers).
Wise Fees for Sending and Converting (Canada)
- Sending money – From 0.43% (Fee varies by currency)
- Converting money – From 0.43% (Fee varies by currency)
If sending 1,000 CAD to someone in the US, you can choose from among the following payment options and their corresponding fees:
For the complete list of fees, go to the Wise Pricing page.
Currencies you can send and receive through Wise
|AUD — Australian dollar
|GBP — British pound
|NZD — New Zealand dollar
|BGN — Bulgarian lev
|HKD — Hong Kong dollar
|PLN — Polish złoty
|BRL — Brazilian real
|HUF — Hungarian forint
|RON — Romanian leu
|CAD — Canadian dollar
|IDR — Indonesian rupiah
|TRY — Turkish lira
|CHF — Swiss franc
|INR — Indian rupee
|SEK — Swedish krona
|CZK — Czech koruna
|JPY — Japanese yen
|SGD — Singapore dollar
|DKK — Danish krone
|MYR — Malaysian ringgit
|USD — US dollar
|EUR — Euro
|NOK — Norwegian krone
Currencies that you can only send money to (via local transfer)
|AED — Emirati Dirham
|GEL — Georgian lari
|PKR — Pakistani rupee
|ARS — Argentine peso
|GHS — Ghana Cedi
|THB — Thai baht
|BDT — Bangladeshi taka
|ILS — Israeli shekels
|UAH — Ukrainian hryvnia
|BWP — Botswana pula
|KES — Kenyan shillings
|UGX — Ugandan shilling
|CLP — Chilean peso
|KRW — South Korean won
|UYU — Uruguayan pesos
|CNY — Chinese yuan
|LKR — Sri Lankan rupee
|VND — Vietnamese dong
|COP — Colombian peso
|MAD — Moroccan dirham
|ZAR — South African Rand
|CRC — Costa Rica Colón
|MXN — Mexican peso
|ZMW — Zambian kwacha
|EGP — Egyptian pound
|NPR — Nepalese Rupee
|FJD — Fijian dollar
|PHP — Philippine peso
How to Contact Wise?
You can reach their support team via email, phone, or in-app chat.
Wise Multi-Currency Account
The Wise Multi-Currency Account is a universal account for sending and receiving money like a local. It holds 40 currencies you can choose from and convert at the real exchange rate in seconds. It is free to sign up and there are no monthly fees.
If you need to get money from other parties in a country where you don’t have a bank account, Wise can provide you your own account for the following currencies: USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD, CAD, HUF, RON, TRY, and SGD.
This account is a great option if you are a freelancer or have a business that does transactions with other businesses located internationally. When you open a Wise multi-currency account, you get the following for free:
- US account number and routing number
- British account number and sort code
- European IBAN
- Australian account number and BSB code
- New Zealand account number
- Canadian account number
- Turkish Lira account and IBAN
- Hungarian forint and account number
- Singapore dollar account
- Romanian Lei account
To open a Wise Multi-Currency Account, register and create an account with Wise, choose between opening a personal or business account, and provide your phone number for the 2-step verification and the country you’re residing in.
The borderless account, multi-currency account and the Wise account are all the same.
What makes it a highly appealing product is that if you have it, there is no need to open a US Dollar bank account in Canada and individual accounts for other currencies. The Wise account gives you access to multiple foreign accounts that function like local bank accounts even though you reside in Canada.
The Wise debit card is now available in the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the UK, Canada, and most of the Eurozone.
If you have an address in any of these countries, you will now be able to use your Wise card worldwide and spend it in any currency.
Wise Debit Card
Combined with your Wise Multi-Currency Account, use the Wise Card to spend money abroad directly from your account and enjoy mid-market exchange rates.
When making a payment using the card, it draws from the local currency in your Wise account if you have a balance. If not, it auto-converts the currency that is the cheapest.
Below are some of the top features of the Wise Card:
- Make payments (online and in-person) in 160 countries
- Pay directly in 40+ local currencies
- Spend using Apple or Google Pay (easily add your virtual cards, so there’s no need to carry the physical card)
- Get 2 free ATM withdrawals overseas (up to a total of 350 CAD each month)
Wise Card Fees
Getting your Wise debit card requires no fees. Reorders cost $5 each. Business customers get the Wise card free.
Both personal and business account customers get access to 3 virtual cards for free.
You can make a maximum of 2 free ATM withdrawals monthly if the total amount is under $350 CAD per month per account. Extra withdrawals cost $1.50 CAD per transaction.
If you withdraw more than $350 CAD per month, a 1.75% fee is charged on top of the $1.50 CAD withdrawal fee.
Is Wise (formerly TransferWise) Safe and Legit?
Wise is a legitimate company regulated by the relevant authorities in the various countries they operate in. For example:
Canada: They are regulated by Authorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) as a money service business. They are also registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).
United States: Registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Their funds are held in banks insured under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
United Kingdom: Authorized as Electronic Money Institution by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
Australia: They are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission with AUSTRAC.
India: Approved by the Revenue Bank of India.
Japan: Regulated by the Kanto Local Financial Bureau and licensed as a Funds Transfer Provider.
Wise has a Trust Score of 4.1/5 on Trustpilot from over 197,000 reviews.
Pros and Cons of Wise
Some of the benefits of using Wise are:
- Convenient and cheap transfers abroad without leaving the comfort of your home
- Transparent upfront fees and a fair, competitive mid-market exchange rate
- No hidden fees
- Versatile mobile app
- Excellent customer support
- A free borderless account with the ability to hold balances in over 40 currencies
- Great for individuals, freelancers, and businesses
Cons: Some of the complaints posted by users online include:
- Account deactivation without prior warning
- Delayed account verification
- Delayed transfers
- Limits on amounts that can be transferred
- Limited support on weekends
- No cash pickup option
Wise was launched in 2011 as TransferWise by Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet Hinrikus. Based in London, Wise currently services millions of customers who transfer over $9 billion monthly.
It is backed by well-known investors, including Richard Branson, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Index Ventures, David Yu, and many others.
Wise vs. PayPal (Xoom) vs. Revolut vs. World Remit
Wise generally beats PayPal on the fee front because PayPal applies an exchange rate that includes currency conversion fees which can be significant.
The snapshot below from Wise mirrors my personal findings when I compared sending money (CAD to AUD) on both platforms.
Revolut is a UK-based fintech company offering currency exchange and peer-to-peer payments. I have heard some good things about them, and it appears they are launching in Canada soon.
Based on their website, they will offer a service to Canadians that allows you to send money abroad in multiple currencies using the interbank exchange rate and a 0.50% fee (plus a markup on weekends and certain currencies).
It will be interesting to see what their full suite of product offerings will look like when they launch in Canada.
Based on my personal experience with sending money transfers to Nigeria, Wise also generally beats WorldRemit and Remitly when you factor in the mid-market exchange rate they use.
Wise and EQ Bank
EQ Bank has a partnership with Wise to offer cheap international money transfers to EQ Bank customers. If you have an EQ Bank Savings Plus account, you can send funds directly in 46 currencies to recipients in 80+ countries using your online account or mobile app.
One advantage of using EQ Bank is that you earn a competitive savings interest rate on any balance you hold in your account.
You can also open an EQ Bank USD account and link it with Wise from your dashboard to make USD payments abroad.
High bank transfer fees and exchange rate markups can significantly eat into the money you are sending abroad. With a service like Wise, you pay lower fees which are apparent upfront. This means more money in your pocket.
Whether paying bills, sending money to friends and family, or receiving monies for services rendered, a reliable and cheaper money transfer service will make your life easier.